If there’s any characteristic of Demi-chan that stands out within its first 5 episodes, it’s how thoughtful it is in regards to its cast. As it stands, Demi-chan partially revolves around the premise of exploring the everyday, school lives of its characters as their extraordinary qualities manifest in mundane and endearing ways. The most important element of this investigation is of course the characterization of the cast and their natural chemistry with one another. However, in that same vein, the way in which the characters are built into their world is a critical point of design for the show and one it has thus far approached with a lot of inspiration.
One of the first steps towards making these other races feel real is establishing what kind of world these characters live in. By providing context and background information, vampires, succubi, and the like no longer feel invented purely for the sake of the characters. There’s a sense of belonging attributed to the cast which is due largely in part to the tidbits of information Demi-chan provides early on. We learn that demi-humans were subject to mistreatment in the past though discrimination has become far less common over time. We also learn that demi-humans have a welfare system which is specifically geared towards helping them overcome whatever racial complications or disadvantages they might have, allowing them to integrate into society.
It’s a light piece of world building however these initial details set the tone for Demi-chan’s more varied atmosphere and method of handling its characters. One of the key points of the show is that, while vampires, dullahans, and succubi differ from regular humans, they do so in much the same way that anyone differs from anybody else. The crux of this perception is that the girls must then feel natural and organic to their environment and this is where the show’s excellent attention to detail becomes its greatest asset.
Demi-chan breathes life into its characters through several different means, chief among them being the dialogue the characters share as well as the expository insight we gain through Takahashi’s own curiosity. The show both utilizes conventional understandings of its various races as well as playful subversions which accent its own refreshing creativity. Though Demi-chan’s characters are by necessity archetypal, there’s a good deal of originality being brought to each them. Take Hikari for instance. She’s a vampire and so expectedly she has fanged teeth, an intrinsic need for blood, and an aversion to strong sunlight. How these qualities manifest however are relatively unconventional and creative.
Hikari doesn’t need to drink blood in order to stay alive however she suffers from something similar to anemia without it. Because of this dependency, the government issues all vampires one pack of blood each month in order to provide them with a dependable and safe resource. With that said, Hikari is uncertain of what she instinctually thinks in regards to sucking other people’s blood – whether it carries an explicitly sexual connotation for her or why she has the desire to do so in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, she enjoys garlic a lot and while the sun won’t kill her, she prefers to avoid harsh sunlight and finds comfort in cool, dimly lit rooms.
Not only does Hikari’s vampiric characterization offer a refreshing reimagining of vampires but it feels authentically implicit in her behavior. It makes sense why she likes hanging out in the dark biology room and why she enjoys drinking tomato juice. More than simply being a vampire for the sake of a gag or a cliche interaction, she acts like one within the context of the show. This touches upon one of the other key methods which Demi-chan uses to characterize its cast which is through their behavior. We actively learn plenty about demi-humans through the show’s dialogue however it’s what remains unspoken that is the show’s greatest source of creativity and innovation.
Because of her nature as a dullahan and due to her unconventional trait being the most physically apparent, Machi is far and away the best example of this inventiveness and attention to detail. Whereas a lot of what we know about Hikari is rooted in what she tells us about vampires, so much of Machi’s characterization and how her race alters her daily life is apparent just by looking at how she literally handles herself. When attending classes, she props her head up on a pillow atop the desk. When spoken to, she seamlessly uses her body’s hands to turn her head and face the different speakers in the conversation. Similarly, she moves her head with her hands to create expressions such as nodding and shaking.
When writing her message to Takahashi, Machi presses the butt of her pencil into her chin in contemplation, though her head rests directly in front of the paper. When startled, her head and body react simultaneously yet separately and sometimes her body reacts in a more extreme fashion – betraying some of the emotion and panic not fully expressed by her face. When settling in for bed, her body sleeps nearby while her head rests comfortably inside a small box. Upon realizing that she wants to write something down on her phone, her body must climb out of bed and maneuver itself awkwardly to bring the phone into her narrow field of view so that she can see what she is typing. Because she can only hold so many things at a time, she often cradles her head in her lap while eating or reading at school which causes Hikari to stoop low when talking to her face to face.
Machi’s behavior seems second nature to her which is why her many quirks and innovative mannerisms are my favorite example of Demi-chan‘s overarching verisimilitude. The show wordlessly litters each of her scenes with a lot of brief yet incredibly relevant details. There was a lot of genuine attention put into how a dullahan might go about everything Machi needs to do which makes for particularly strong execution. Something similar can be said of Satou who, as a succubus, must carefully avoid making contact with other people because her touch acts similarly to an aphrodisiac. Her avoidance of others doubles as her primary gag however is very evident in how she pays careful attention to the area around her. This leads to her taking the earliest and the latest trains to and from work in order to avoid crowds but more importantly, means that she must both sit and live alone.
With all of that said, the one other aspect of the casts’ characterization that I think is worth touching upon is also perhaps their most endearing. To speak of all of these various, racial traits is to say nothing of the character’s personalities themselves. Though each of the girls is clearly affected in some way by their race, it doesn’t define them. Demi-chan isn’t so naive as to have every other scene feature a bowling sequence with Machi’s head or Satou desperately attempting not to bumble into somebody. The girls often converse with Takahashi about their various complications but they also talk about things that aren’t related to their race. Demi-chan treats its cast like characters first and monster girls second. Their dialogue is fundamentally about who they are rather than what they are.
A majority of Demi-chan’s gags and comedic moments are structured around the way in which the characters’ personalities interact rather than solely around their apparent racial differences. This is really important to Demi-chan’s exploration of its characters and relates back to one of its primary interest lies in discerning how their unconventional disadvantages manifest as mundane complications in everyday life. The characters feel distinctly like themselves. I think its one of the things that sets Demi-chan apart because it could have so easily fallen into the formula where every joke and interaction emphasized what made the characters unique instead of what made them normal.